For about two years now, I've been a "couponer". Meaning, I don't just use coupons here and there at grocery store, but I strategically plan when and where to use them to get the most bang for my buck. However, I AM NOT A CRAZY COUPON LADY! Ha ha! I do not have a stock pile that takes up a whole room, nor do I have 50 bags of cat food when we don't own a single feline. What I do have is an extra "hide-away" cupboard where I store extra drinks, crackers, etc. for when we run out of what's currently open. I also have a "box system" in my linen closet where I store razors, tooth-paste, and shampoo. If my box is full, or I have plenty, then the freebie toiletries I get are then donated. Truth be told, half of the really good coupon deals I get, are gone before I get home (I like to drop some off with my mom, at our church, and to friends)!
I decided last month that I wanted to keep track of my coupon savings every month so that, year end, I would know how much my annual savings were. I have a notebook that I make my grocery lists in, and in the back I have stapled an envelope. Each time I go to the grocery store and use coupons, I put that receipt in the envelope. I only keep track of coupon savings (paper or coupons linked to a savings card- like VIC). I do not include any VIC, Kroger Card, and MVP savings because each corresponding store keeps a running total of what you've saved using their loyalty card.
I spend anywhere from 5-8 hours a month "couponing". This time includes cutting and sorting coupons, finding match-ups online and in ads, and making my grocery lists. A lot of people think that to be a couponer you have to spend that much time a week, but that's only if you're like those coupon-addicts on TV! In reality, it's not that time consuming, and totally worth it!
The amount I saved in January was (just from coupons I had online or in the paper): $154.59! That means I made $19.32-$30.92 an hour couponing, depending on how many hours I put in this month. Now, I probably saved $500 total this month if I included my loyalty card, but I just wanted to know what I saved with my other paper currency.
Since I've had several friends/family members ask me how to coupon, I've decided to start giving out some of my (not-so)super-secret tips. I'll try to do a weekly segment, if you will, but they may end up being more sporadic! For our first installment of "Erin's Couponing 101", I give you my anti-Wal-Mart campaign:
Yes, Wal-mart and Target may have prices that are consistently lower than grocery store chains, but you are not getting the best deals if you shop there for every day staples. Using low-value coupons (anything under $1) at places that do not double, is just a waste. Wal-mart, Target, and Food Lion do not double coupons...ever! If you use a $.25 coupon there, then that's all you're going to get off- face value. Let's do a scenario:
Wal-Mart sells a single roll of Bounty paper towels for $2.12. Harris Teeter sells the same paper towels for $2.49. If you have a $.25 coupon and use it at Wal-mart, you will pay $1.87. If you buy the same paper towels at Harris Teeter, and use the same coupon (it will double), you will pay $1.99. Now, I know you're thinking, "Erin, you said Wal-Mart wasn't the best deal and it looks like I'll pay $.12 less there!". Now, here's where the game play comes in. Wal-Mart never has BOGO deals. Wal-Mart doesn't have specials. Wal-Mart does not have a customer loyalty card that you can hook E-coupons up to (and combine with paper coupons). Currently, I have a $.25 E-coupon on my VIC card that, if used with my paper coupon, would make the paper towels $1.74. However, that's if the paper towels are full-priced. Many times they'll have them 10/$10 ($1 each), BOGO (1 item rings half off), or as a VIC special. Bottom line: I usually pay NO MORE than $1 for a single roll of paper towels at a store that doubles coupons (like Harris Teeter, Kroger, or Farm Fresh) where as I would pay no less than $1.87 at Wal-Mart.
Also, here's another tip: Don't scoff at an $.87 savings. It adds up! If you saved around 50% on everything you bought, you'd definitely notice that, right?
Hope this helps, and stay tuned for more money saving tips!